Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Selling the Church: The English Parish in Law, Commerce, and Religions, 1350-1550

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Selling the Church: The English Parish in Law, Commerce, and Religions, 1350-1550

Article excerpt

Selling the Church: The English Parish in Law, Commerce, and Religions, 1350-1550. By Robert C. Palmer. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 2002. Pp. xiii, 330. $49.95.)

In this fascinating account of the English parish from a legal point of view, Robert Palmer explores how the Reformation changed the legal relations organizing parishes. In the first five chapters, he introduces the reader to the parish as a governed community and as an important unit in the agrarian economy. He also explains how the common law regulated the functioning of a parish as an economic unit. His main focus in this part of the book is on the practice of rectors leasing out their parishes, often to lay persons, in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The chapters on parish leasing breaks entirely new ground. In the second part, Palmer goes beyond earlier historians in tracing the enactment and exploring the enforcement of statutes in 1529 that, he says, changed the nature of the English parish. The statutes regulated mortuary fees and the fees for probating wills. More importantly, the statutes limited absenteeism by rectors, forbade clerics from engaging in commercial activities, and severely restricted clerics taking leases of lands or parishes as tenants. In Palmer's view, the statutes of 1529 and their enforcement by private actions were an important but largely neglected part of the English Reformation. Indeed, it is Palmer's thesis that the 1529 statutes were responsible for transforming rectors from entrepreneurs (or proto-entrepreneurs) into "spiritual persons" devoted to the religious life of their parishes.

The two parts of the book do not fit together very well In the first part of the book Palmer dwells on the practice of rectors leasing out their parishes, frequently to lay persons. Palmer argues that this practice meant that rectors no longer participated in the religious life of their parishes. Lessees had to hire chaplains to perform the religious duties, but neither rector nor bishop had close or direct control over the spiritual life of the parish. He makes the questionable argument that parishioners were thereby alienated: their tithes only helped the lessee's profit margin. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.